SHRIMP FOR THE HOLIDAYS, MADE MULBERRY STREET STYLE
I'd like to share, especially at this Holiday time a recipe that is one of my favorites, either to
eat out, or to make. It's a NYC Little Italy style version of a quick fried seafood served with a
tomato,hot pepper and garlic sauce that comes in three different styles, "sweet", "medium" or
"hot". When ordering you will always be asked which sauce..sweet is mildly spiced, Medium
is pretty peppered up, a surprise to people who are looking for something more mild, and Hot
is just wildly hot. So, there are your options..something for everyone. I enjoy a mix of the hot
and medium. A tasty hard Southern Italian biscuit called a Friselle is served with the sea-
food. FYI, in the some Italian markets there are two types of Friselle, one is the hard small
sliced one usually made with olive oil and lots of cracked black pepper...These are the ones
used for this dish. The others are called Friselle Barese or Pugliese..they look like a hard
bagel. These are halved and a mixture of chopped garden ripe tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and
onion or garlic are poured over them. A great item, but not the one for this dish.
To properly make this dish according to the old school Seafood "Clam Bars" of NYC's Little
Italy which lined the streets called Mulberry. Broome, Hester, Mott..with names like Little Charlie's,
Vincent's, Umberto's...you need to make the sauce. It is a thick, brick red, semi-oily sauce
full of oregano, garlic, a dash of wine, and lots of dried hot chile pepper. Best flavor in this
sauce is acquired by making it ahead of time, like 2 days before you serve it. The heat from
the peppers and the other flavors really develop, but you certainly can serve it on the day you
For this sauce, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil and 1 tbs. of hot pepper flakes in a sauce pan. Let this cook
until the pepper flakes start popping, then add 3 sliced cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of dried oregano.
Salt to taste and when the garlic JUST begins to take on color, add 3 tablespoons of wine, white or
red. Let this sizzle up and then add a full can of Tomato paste. Stir this around and mix the paste
with the oil. Let me backtrack, adjust the amount of pepper flakes to your taste...I keep assuming
everyone likes it as hot as I do...sorry.... Allow the paste to cook for a good 10 minutes, keep
stirring or it will burn. Add a can of Italian crushed tomatoes, blend well and let this simmer on
low for 2 hours. Check and stir occasionally. Taste for seasoning and let sit for 1/2 hour before
using, or , as previously stated, pack it into the fridge and use it in 2 days.
For the shrimp(and/or calamari rings and tentacles), use a 1lb of 20-26 shrimp for 4 people.
Clean, peel and devein, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Make a dry mix of 1/8 cup flour,
salt to taste, black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic. Heat 2 inches of olive oil or canola
oil in a high sided pan or a pot. Drege the shrimp in the flour, shaking off excess and line
in a flat pan or plate. Add one shrimp to the hot oil, it should dance around and immediately
start to curl up. The secret of the taste in this dish is this "deep-frying" method..pan frying in
a small amount of oil doesn't make it correctly. Turn the shrimp and it should be a golden/pink/
white color. If this happens, you can now start frying the rest of the shrimp. Add in small batches
or you will lower the oil temp, and start to steam the seafood and they will NEVER crisp. Drain
on paper towels. Cooking times should be no more than 2 minutes or less per side...the more
the shrimp curls up into itself, the more done it is.
Keep the cooked shrimp with a loose tent of foil over them,don't keep them warm in the oven,
they will cook more. You should be done in no time and they will all stay hot this way. Make sure
your sauce is piping hot as well and serve with lemon and parsley and if you want to be completely
authentic, get those Friselle...mail-order or at your local Italian Market or Salumeria.
For those of us who are Italian-American, the Christmas Eve dinner is a much anticipated
meal, probably the most of the year (seafood haytas stay away!). It is a feast of any number
(although there are local legends which state 7 or 13 types) of fish and seafood dishes,
pasta, vegetables and sweets. This Mulberry Street version, one of the most authentic of
the old school Italian-American dishes, very indigenous to NYC is just so tasty...let's break
from tradition for a moment for those who wish a non-tomato spiced sauce...Make an aioli
of garlic, mayo (or make ur own lemon and fresh basil. Very special too. The light
coating of the seafood lends itself well to other sauces. A little lemon zest in that aioli
makes it even more special..aioli being a Provencal French sauce. Back to the kitchen,
I have Sicilian Panelle frying in a pan.